10 Oct 2016

Justification in Catholicism, Part I

It may come as a surprise to some that, Luther’s attempt to add the word “alone” into Romans 3:28 notwithstanding, the words “alone” or “only” are never paired with “faith” in all of the Sacred Text except when the phrase is condemned in James. As a Protestant, this was the first fact to give me pause about my theology of salvation. If the phrase “faith alone” was really, as so many Reformers claimed, the best

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29 Aug 2016

On the Misuse of Sacred Scripture

Note: This article was originally published on my personal blog. Since then, several individuals (most of whom are Catholic) have kindly mentioned to me that this essay seems rather combative and extreme at points. However, I am unable to identify much that I can genuinely recant or replace, and thus have preserved most of the text in its original form. Nevertheless, my respect for the aforementioned individuals compels me to offer my sincere apologies to anyone who may share

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12 Jul 2016

Augustine, Education, and the Pitfalls of Academia

Over the past three or four years I have had a few, percolating thoughts on theological training and education. Or, more particularly, thoughts on my experiences at various institutions and on my reading of so-called ‘academic’ literature. A couple of months ago I was asked by a professor why I was so cynical about ‘the academy’ and ‘academics’. My reply to him was convoluted enough that I thought I should attempt to write a little

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21 Jun 2016

Genesis 1 as a Model for Cultural Engagement

The debate about what to do with Genesis 1 is divisive. Many prominent Young Earth Creationists stake the entire truth value of the Gospel on whether or not the passage is describing a literal history, while those who identify as theistic evolutionists can be accused of playing “fast and loose” with the text. No matter what position one takes, understanding the background of this text is a pre-requisite to understanding its message. When Genesis 1

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17 Jun 2016

Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue on Grace: Part V (Statement of Agreement)

Thank you for persevering with us to the end of this conversation. This is the final and fifth part of a dialogue between Michael (LCMS Lutheran) and Benjamin (Roman Catholic) on the subjects of faith and works, sin and holiness, and salvation. To get caught up, read Michael’s opening statement, along with parts II, III, and IV. In this last part, we have decided to revisit the major points of the topics we have discussed,

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20 May 2016

Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue on Grace: Part IV (Salvation)

“What must I do to be saved” (Acts 16:30)? It all comes down to this. In the end, this is the primary question upon which Lutherans and Catholics are (perceived to be?) in disagreement. In this final “question-and-answer” section of the dialogue between Michael (Lutheran) and Benjamin (Catholic), we address various concerns that arise over salvation. To get caught up, read Michael’s opening statement, along with parts II, III. As always, we hope that others

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17 May 2016

Round Table: Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God?

Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? This is a question which has received much attention in recent years, with numerous theologians and cultural commentators weighing in on what has become a hotly contested debate. And rightly so, for as Christian and Islamic civilizations clash, a clarification of the foundations of each worldview remains necessary for understanding each religion and what is at stake. Yet the question of this month’s Round Table discussion does

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22 Apr 2016

Catholic-Lutheran Dialogue on Grace: Part III (Sin and Holiness)

In Part I of this exchange between myself (Catholic) and Michael (Lutheran), Michael outlined Lutheran views on grace and faith. Parts II, III, and IV are “question-and-answer” sessions where Michael and I debate the exact implications of his statements from Part I. We hope that others will find the information helpful, and that our dialogue can serve as a model for inquiry into the issues that, sadly, divide Christians across denominations. Whether or not we

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24 Feb 2016

He Gives His Beloved Sleep

“This trouble is from the Lord! Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?”1 As 2 Kings 6 wraps up, the despair is evident. Samaria is under a siege that has lasted long enough that some of the inhabitants have resorted to cannibalism. Faced with a situation outside of his control, with no apparent hope of rescue, Jehoram (king of Israel) sends a messenger to kill Elisha. As the messenger relays the kings words,

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22 Jan 2016

Of Tribalism and Churches (Part II)

In my last post I outlined some of the contextual and doctrinal considerations surrounding my ongoing wrestling with tribalism and baptism. In today’s post, I attempt to apply these principles to my “on the ground” situation. All Things to All People? Saint Paul speaks of becoming all things to all people. Less helpful, at least for my purposes, is how far he expects us to go in order to meet people where they are. Building

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26 Nov 2015

In a Land with Much for Which to Be Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving, dear American readers! Today marks the day when we pause to take time away from our busy schedules to spend time with family, stuff ourselves with choice foods and rich drinks, watch copious amounts of football, and offer thanks to our Creator for His bountiful gifts. Meister Eckhart once said that “if the only prayer you ever say is thank you, it will be enough,” and today we stop to offer thanksgiving for

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20 Nov 2015

Citizenship in Heaven

“[Christians] live in their respective countries, but only as resident aliens; they participate in all things as citizens, and they endure all things as foreigners…They live on earth but participate in the life of heaven” ~Epistle to Diognetus 6.5, 9. As a former resident of Paris and its suburbs, I have shared the grief and pain of the attacks on that beautiful city.  I have always loved Ernest Hemingway’s, now almost cliché quote, “If you

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18 Nov 2015

Canon Considerations: Authority And The Heart Of The Discussion

Without the Bible—and more specifically, the New Testament—the Christian faith would not exist today. This is a fact that Christians of any branch would readily agree upon. But how did we get this collection of 27 New Testament books?1 How do we know that we have the correct books—that we haven’t left any out or included any spurious ones? To frame the question more poignantly, can we trust the collection of books we call the

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16 Oct 2015

The Humble Church

Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all

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17 Sep 2015

Billy Budd and the Lesser Magistrates

A Counter-Narrative In the unfolding controversy over Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis’ refusal to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, an old Calvinist doctrine appears to have entered the public debate. This “doctrine of the lesser magistrates” suggests that public servants ought not comply with laws that violate their consciences, stemming from the general adage that “an unjust law is no law at all.” Other thinkers have critiqued the inherent epistemic fragmentation in this doctrine

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26 Aug 2015

Of Weddings and Little Promises

It was a warm, slightly sticky evening. Sitting towards the front of a crowd of friends and family, I observed the evening shade slowly growing on the mountains behind my friend. He, in his turn, was gazing back our way with (what I could only guess was) a mix of nervousness, fear, excitement, and joy. For, if the title hasn’t already given it away, my friend was looking past the rest of us toward the

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29 Jul 2015

Patience: Natural Heart’s-Ivy

Perhaps this is merely my experience, but I grew up hearing that some prayers were dangerous. The prayers for things such as greater boldness in witnessing, further opportunities to give, or greater love for the person who’s a thorn in your side. These prayers have a way of being answered, or rather, of creating opportunities to outwork the desires apparently behind our prayers. Naturally, these opportunities feel uncomfortable and, at times, even hurt a little.

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01 Jul 2015

Be Comforted In Your Smallness

Our day-to-day lives constantly involve measuring size. Heading to bed we consciously (or unconsciously) determined the length of our sleep. At breakfast, we count calories (if on an appropriate diet) or at least guesstimate how much oatmeal to put in the bowl, or butter on the toast. Then there’s the time it’ll take to get to work, how long the gas will last in the vehicle, the number of items on the to-do list .

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17 Jun 2015

Holding Fast

“ ‘The star-glass?’ muttered Frodo, as one answering out of sleep, hardly comprehending. ‘Why yes! Why had I forgotten it? A light when all other lights go out! And now indeed light alone can help us.’ ”1 The interplay between light and dark is an ongoing part of our lives. In the literal sense, we live in a world where the regular appearance of both provides a measure of regulation to our activities. Figuratively though,

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10 Jun 2015

Beauty is in the Grace of the Beholder

You are ugly. I’m sorry, but it is true. I have no idea what you look like, but I can say with absolute certainty that you are an ugly human being. This is because ugliness is inherent to being human in this fallen and sinful world and is completely independent of what you look like. Your body is broken and dying. With every passing moment you grow closer to the day when you will shut

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